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Festival of Sails 2023 - LEADERBOARD

Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series opens Chicago Sailing Season

by Sarah Renz 8 Jun 18:29 PDT June 10-12, 2022
Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series © Mark Albertazzi / HHSWRS

The sailing season in Chicago hits its stride this coming weekend as the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series brings sailors from across the country to the 'Windy City' for what is always one of the biggest events of the season.

Nearly 200 entries are expected for the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series event, hosted by the Chicago Yacht Club at the Monroe and Belmont Stations and supported by the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club and Columbia Yacht Club.

An always popular early-season regatta and an important Midwest destination for traveling sailors, the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series' Chicago stop draws locals as well as competitors from nearly 20 states, who come annually for the high level of competition.

The Tartan 10 class, a fixture of this regatta for nearly 30 years, is shaping up to once again be one of the largest divisions. Brian Kaczor's team on Erica will return to defend its win from 2021, but Timothy Rathbun's team on Winnebego is also on the entry list and looking to avenge its 1-point loss. Newcomers to the class, however, could play spoilers to the pecking order says Blane Boynton, who races with his wife Cindy on board Minister.

"We've had a few boats change hands over the past two years and that bodes well for the regatta," Boynton says. "Some of those new teams are younger racers that are very good."

Dave Tufts and his crew on the J/88 Gaucho, from Rochester, New York, almost went undefeated at the regatta in 2021, but a winter calendar packed with J/88 class regattas has elevated the likelihood of this 15-team division being a far bigger challenge for Gaucho this time around. On the hunt will be John and Jordon Leahey's team on Dutch, winners of the last significant J/88 gathering, in Charleston in April, where they won on a tie-breaker with Andy Graff's Chicago-based team on Exile. This weekend's races will serve as additional training for the J/88 North American Championship in Chicago in September.

"It will be interesting coming from this winter's relatively flat-water venues and into the lumps we get here in Chicago [on Lake Michigan]," Graff says. "There will be a lot more mixing in the fleet standings. Everyone will have good and bad races, which means having a good result will come down to consistency. Anyone can beat you in any given race, so we really need to respect that."

Much of the same can be expected in the J/111 and J/105, J/109 and J/70 divisions, packed with great teams that have been sailing all winter long. The J/70s will face Bruce Golison's Team on Midlife Crisis, second at the 2021 J/70 World Championships in California and featuring the same top-level squad, including Rolex Yachtsman of the Year finalist and Etchells World champion crew, Erik Shampain.

New to the Chicago regatta will be the ILCA one-person dinghy class and the L30 division, sleek 30-footers designed by Ukranian Olympic silver medalist Rodian Luka (Men's 49er).

With some of the L30s privately owned and others made available for charter, the fleet is providing competitors easy access to turnkey grand-prix racing. Luka and his support team set up and prepare the boats for teams interested in trying the multi-purpose design. L30s were featured at the St. Petersburg stop of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series and received high praise from chartering teams for their speed and ease of handling in a variety of wind conditions.

The L30s will shift from buoy racing on Saturday to join the North Sails Rally Race fleet, which will sail a daylong distance race that will start and finish in the vicinity of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. The current North Sails Rally Race fleet features nearly 30 boats ranging from 52 to 35 feet, and many of them will be using the race as a warm-up for this summer's annual Race to Mackinac.

The powerhouse classes of the Beneteau 36.7s and 40.7s are packed with the area's most dedicated and seasoned amateur sailors. Competition is sure to be close, especially with the return of their respective division winners: Antoni Czupryna's Erizo de Mar in the Beneteau 36.7s and Gary Powell, Scot and Yvonne Ruhlander's Mojo in Beneteau 40.7. Mojo emerged as the regatta's overall winner in 2021.

"The Beneteau 36.7s have always had a strong fleet at this regatta," says 36.7 skipper Jarrett Altmin. "Chicago has always been a powerbase for the class, in terms of fleet size and competition. We have a few new boats to the area, as well as longtime crew members that have bought boats, which is great. Right now, the inventory of used boats is pretty limited, which shows how strong the interest—plus, you know you'll always have good, close one-design racing in Chicago."

Racing for the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series Chicago gets under way on Friday, June 10 with all buoy-racing classes and continues with North Sail Saturday on June 11 and concludes on Sunday, June 12 with the selection of the regatta's overall winner and awards party at the Chicago Yacht Club, where evening socials will be hosted for sailors, friends, families and members.

When the Chicago regatta concludes Sunday, June 12, one class-winning competitor will be selected to compete in the Helly Hansen Sailing World Caribbean Championship, hosted by Sunsail, in October in the British Virgin Islands.

For more information on the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series events, visit www.sailingworld.com/regatta-series.

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